'Assault on federalism': Kejriwal lends support to Mamata, criticises 'blatant' Central interference in Bengal govt

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is presently dealing with a multi-pronged crisis. Even as TMC heavyweight leader Suvendu Adhikari resigning from the party on Thursday and an internal conflict brewed, Banerjee also found herself waging a battle with the Modi government. The latter was prompted by the fact that the Centre had written to the Chief Minister telling the Bengal government to immediately relieve three IPS officers for central deputation.

The instructions did not sit well with the Chief Minister, who promptly dubbed the move move "unconstitutional and unacceptable" and a "brazen attempt to control the state machinery by proxy", escalating tensions between the state and the Centre.

"GoI’s order of central deputation for the 3 serving IPS officers of West Bengal despite the State’s objection is a colourable exercise of power and blatant misuse of emergency provision of IPS Cadre Rule 1954," the Chief Minister tweeted. Pointing to the fact that the decision had come just months before the state elections, Banerjee said that the move was "against the basic tenets of the federal structure".

"We wouldn’t allow this brazen attempt by the Centre to control the State machinery by proxy! West Bengal is not going to cow-down in front of expansionist and undemocratic forces," she had vowed.

Now, it would seem that Mamata has found herself an ally in the form of a fellow Chief Minister. "I condemn the Centre’s blatant interference in the Bengal administration. Encroaching on the rights of states by attempting to transfer police officers to Centre just before elections, is an assault on federalism and an attempt to destabilize," tweeted Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday morning.

The Centre's letter comes five days after the West Bengal government said it will not relieve the three IPS officers, the Centre sent a fresh missive on Thursday, asking the state to immediately release them so they could take up their new assignments.

In a communication to the West Bengal chief secretary, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said, according to the IPS cadre rules, the Centre prevails over a state government in case of any dispute between the two. Quoting the rules, the MHA noted in case of any disagreement between the central and the state governments, the "state governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the central government".

The three officers -- Bholanath Pandey (SP, Diamond Harbour), Praveen Tripathi (DIG, Presidency Range) and Rajeev Mishra (ADG, South Bengal) -- were responsible for the security of BJP chief J P Nadda during his December 9-10 visit to the politically volatile state. The Centre wants them shifted account of alleged dereliction of duty that led to an attack on Nadda's convoy in Diamond Harbour constituency of TMC MP and Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee. Several vehicles in the convoy were damaged and BJP leaders received injuries in the attack.

(With inputs from agencies)

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